A Third Degree DWI is a more serious DWI than your typical first-time DWI. You face up to a year in jail and a $3,000 fine, having your driver’s license revoked for 180 days (or 1 year if you refused) and having whiskey plates put on all of your vehicles.
How do I get a 3rd Degree DWI? To be charged with a third 3rd degree DWI in Minnesota, one of these things must have happened:
- You have a prior DWI or alcohol-related loss of license within the past 10 years;
- You had a passenger age 16 or younger at the time of the DWI;
- You took a blood, urine or breath test with a result of .20 or more; or
- You refused to provide a blood, urine or breath test after the officer asked you to.
If none of the above apply to your situation, then you should have been charged with a fourth degree DWI.
What if I’m charged with a 3rd degree but I haven’t had a DWI before? If you are convicted of a third degree DWI and do not have a prior DWI or alcohol related loss of license within the past 10 years, then the mandatory minimum does not apply and the judge does not have to sentence you to at least 30 days. Beware that many prosecutors will still ask the judge to put you in jail if you plead guilty to a 3rd degree DWI even if this is your first DWI becuase it’s a more serious type of DWI than the normal first-time DWI. An experienced DWI lawyer will fight against this.
Could anything else happen to me besides jail? Yes. Regardless of whether you have a prior DWI or not, if you plead guilty or are found guilty of a third degree DWI, here are some other consequences you face besides jail and a fine:
- Your driver’s license being revoked for 180 days (see my Implied Consent article) or 1-year if you refused the test;
- Having a gross misdemeanor on your criminal record;
- Sentence to Service (picking up garbage on the side of the road, scrubbing urine off of walls, removing graffiti, shoveling snow, cutting grass, etc.);
- Loss of your job and loss of income;
- Whiskey Plates; and
- Increased insurance costs
How can a lawyer help? Just because you tested over the limit does not mean that you are guilty of DWI. There are many defenses to DWI, and it is possible to have your case entirely thrown out (dismissed), have the charges lowered to speeding, no brake light, no headlight, failing to signal, careless driving, a lower degree of DWI, and a number of other lower charges instead of a DWI. They’re all better than getting a DWI on your record, but if you go into court without a lawyer, the odds of you getting a lower result are extremely low, not to mention that you will still have a DWI on your driving record and still be revoked because you probably didn’t file an Implied Consent challenge (see my Implied Consent article).
In addition, even if you ultimately plead guilty to a DWI, you are better off doing it with a lawyer. Why? First, the prosecutors are more likely to make a better offer to you if you have an experienced DWI lawyer, because they know that the experienced lawyer is better at defending the case than you are. Second, an experienced DWI lawyer knows each judge’s tendencies. That is important because judges have discretion on what sentence to give you, and an experienced DWI lawyer can keep you away from the judges that are especially tough on DWIs. Third, an experienced DWI lawyer can give you an idea of everything to expect and can tell you whether the proposed sentence is fair or not before you plead, so you know if you are making a good decision or not.
Remember, the information above is just a basic summary of what you can expect for a third degree DWI in Minnesota. There are too many fact-specific variables to cover every situation in one document. Therefore, this information should not be relied upon for legal advice. The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to hire an experienced DWI lawyer. If you have further questions, feel free to call me or visit my website at www.arrestedmn.com You can also follow me on Twitter: arrestedmn